Have you seen the emails that circulate over and over again about things like cell phone companies releasing all of our numbers to telemarketers or Congress passing legislation that would stop all religious broadcasting or passing a tax on all emails? These are all false and have been shown to be false over and over again; yet every few years they resurface with great vigor and are passed by well meaning and concerned people. Sometimes these people are so convinced of the truth of these tales that they fight and resist any attempt to point out the fallacy of the information.
We also get defensive about many issues to the point of escalating anger and discord among former friends and associates. We have forgotten how to converse and discuss without passing judgment upon the person taking a different understanding of whatever issue is being discussed.
In the June 1, 2010 issue of The Christian Century, page 45, Rodney Clapp’s column ”American Soundings” discusses the history of the jeremiad (a lament or tale of woe) as a way of calling people back to their senses during times of great division. He quotes Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address of March 4, 1865.
“Both read the same Bible to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing the bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The almighty has His own purposes.”
Both sides in the Civil War committed terrible crimes against innocents as well as against soldiers. As Christians, to demand that God be on our side in all matters trends toward childishness. We are instructed over and over in the Bible to love one another and to seek justice and do kindness to each other. Yet we still insist that we know exactly what God wants of us on every topic and that God’s wrath should be poured out upon those who disagree. In fact, the idea that they disagree with us shows how ungodly they truly have become. The North prayed for a defeat of the South and the South prayed for the defeat of the North. Although history declares that the North won, looking at the cost to lives in the entire nation and the ongoing struggle for real freedom and justice for everyone throughout the whole nation, I venture that the victory declared by the Union was bittersweet and still incomplete.
In Lincoln’s words, we find the pattern for discourse among Christians as well as US citizen’s over issues that divide us. Pray to God and ask for guidance while accepting that God’s answer will not always be exactly what we have asked of God. Pray that God’s answer will challenge each side to strive for deeper understanding while still demanding that we love each other as God first loved each of us. Listen to the Grace of God and not the vitriol of the media that we might all be seen as Christians by our love.